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[Mt 16:21] From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.  Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”  But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.
 “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
[Mt 16:21] From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.
He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things
Until this point in his ministry, Jesus had been teaching (revealing) to the disciples that he was the Messiah. From this point on, Jesus began instructing the disciples about the role of God’s Messiah. The popular belief was that the Messiah would be the next King David establishing the Jews as a world power and freeing them from Rome However, Jesus’ teachings on the messiah were disturbingly different—more so to the disciples who would be identified as “co-conspirators”: “He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day [v21].” What Matthew aptly reveals are the obstacles Jesus must overcome so the disciples can a) identify that he is the Messiah, and b) fathom that God’s Messiah must become the suffering servant from David’s prophetic Psalm 22.
Our progress of faith must also take a similar process. First—like the crowd—we might acknowledge that Jesus is a wise man or—like the Pharisees—we might see him as a threat. Then, like the disciples in the boat [Chapter 14] we might accept that Jesus is God’s Son if he gives us respite from our trials. At some point, like Peter [Chapter 16] we might acknowledge that Jesus is an intimate Savior who died for our sins. But, finally, here in the latter part of 16, we see that Jesus is not just my Savior, but the bridge for all humanity to restore communion with God. He seeks nothing less than to lay down his life and die that all might cross into the embrace of God.
Our faith is richest when we finally transition from personal Messiah to communal Messiah accepting Christ’s charge to “go to all nations.”
[Mt 28:18] And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Where am I on this walk? How do I get to the full faith of those disciples that left the shivering huddle of the Upper Room and divided up the world, each going a separate way to carry out Christ’s charge? Am I with people who will challenge me enough to keep reaching beyond a personal Savior and out to a communal, “ends-of-the-earth-reaching” Savior?
 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”  But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
“Get behind Me, Satan!”
In the space of one paragraph, Peter goes from being the rock of the church [Matt 16:18] to being the representative of evil unleashed. What happened? Jesus makes it clear. In verse 16, Peter is God’s human conduit in naming Jesus as the Christ: Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Then, Peter takes his eyes off God and turned them inward to self: “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s [Mt 16:23].’”
When Peter’s eyes turn inward—on his own wants—he attempts to trap Jesus into his own reality. How often do we step into the same paradigm? We don’t want to go on Jesus’ path to sacrifice and servanthood. We rebuke or ignore those who would challenge us to leave behind our own comfortable model of a personal Messiah. We even try to recreate him in our own image assuming that my needs are his responsibility! That is when we are least like a conduit for God and most like the Manipulative One.
Peter’s example teaches us that our inner strength or outer abilities cannot sustain us. The same man who steps out of the boat in faith sinks into the waters of self-protection. The man who names Jesus the Christ then tries to manipulate God.
Yet, we must never forget from where these stories came! The Gospel writers each write for different purposes and thus highlight different events. However, it has been calculated that Mark contains about 93 percent of the material the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) have in common. Mark may have known Jesus as a teenager, there is evidence that the upstairs of his house was the upper room and that he was the boy who fled naked from the guards in the Garden of Gethsemane. But we know for sure that Mark was Peter’s scribe, mentored at the Apostle’s feet. In 1 Peter 5:13, Peter goes as far as to call Mark; “my son.”
These stories about Peter were told by Peter to Mark. Can we see how amazing that is? In his latter years as servant to the church, Peter didn’t hide behind pride or position as he tried to do when he blurted out to Jesus: “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”
In his waning years, Peter tells these stories to his young scribe without guarding his weaknesses. It was as though he is saying to John Mark; “Tell future generations the whole truth. How much I failed but how much more our Lord loved me.”
Peter is a leader —not because he is without fault — but because he unwincingly reveals how foolish his actions were when he tried to lead and not follow Jesus. Peter insists that everyone knows how obstinate and blind he could be but how great and merciful God could be as well. Does that sound like our leadership? Are we courageous enough to say; “Listen, I am a failure without God. The only smart thing I have ever done was fall on his grace.”
I constantly say to the guys in jail: “It is all about getting up one more time than you fall down.” Ultimately, that’s faith. That God has a plan for the expansive universe; but also a plan for fumbling old me.
I can follow the wrong gods, I can become self-focused, I can even try to manipulate the words of Jesus. Yet ultimately, will I admit my error and come humbly before the Lord? That’s what counts—getting up just one more time than I fall down.
 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
“Take up his cross and follow Me”
We must not underplay the significance these words would have on the Apostles: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me [v24].”
The disciples would have no appropriate context with which to understand that statement. We have hundreds of years of imagery referencing the cross. We see the symbol of the cross but sometimes not the cruel instrument of torture and death that the subjects of Roman occupation experienced. We’ve seen it on paintings, icons, statues, and necklaces, but to the Jews of Jesus’ time it meant political domination and cruelty.
Christ used this imagery once before in Matthew [Matt 10:38] when he sent the Apostles out to the twelve tribes with the power to cast out demons and heal all manners of sickness and disease. He tells them in that reading that they would be the most hated of all men, persecuted and hunted down. Why is Jesus doing this? Why is he giving them such harsh news?
To prepare them for what lies ahead.
Jesus never did a “sales job” on his disciples. He never told them that his was the easy path. In fact, he tells them that no path could ever be so hard. We must never think Christianity is the easy way. Following Christ to the cross is not comfortable, popular, or prosperous. If that is how our life becomes, it is quite possible that we are completely ignoring the Gospel.
Christianity is the way of self-denial and constant trials. If our path is easy and comfortable we may be citing Jesus as Lord but not following his path.
To further differentiate his role as Messiah.
Ever since Matthew 9:35, Jesus has been clarifying his role as Messiah to the disciples. What happened in 9:35 that started this phase of Christ’s ministry?
Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
From that moment on, our Lord’s ministry switched from teaching to sending; from discipling to “apostle-ing.”
At some point in time, the mature faith must also switch from discipling to “apostle-ing.” We must go from sharpening our sickle to using it.
Then He *said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
At some point in time we must go from being “in the crowd” to being “on the road.” We must switch from comfortable Christianity to cross-bearing Christianity, from commentators to participants, theologians to advocates.
This is what Jesus was pushing the disciples to do. He pushes them to become leaders of in the harvest, not maintenance workers in the grain elevator. Have we moved from comfort to cross yet? Is that where we are pointing the communities of faith around us? That is the purpose for which Christ prepared his followers; are we preparing for the same?
 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
“What will it profit?”
Okay let’s discuss the Profit/Loss sheet of Jesus Christ. This is the Savior who exchange the regional economy of the Geresenes to save one man from demon-possession:
The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.” Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.
That’s two thousand pigs! Even by today’s standards that’s a huge farm! Yet, their worth meant nothing to Jesus in comparison with the soul of one man—and the most rejected man of a detested country at that! That is Kingdom Economics.
In fear, the Gerasenes plead with Jesus to leave but when the Lord returns; the whole region has been converted to our Lord [Mark 6:53-56]. People throughout the area ran to bring their sick and diseased to be touched by Jesus.
Do our economics work like that? Do we believe without hesitation that anything we have is worthless compared to rercovering someone from the Manipulator’s clutches? Is there anything we wouldn’t gladly give away if it meant one more life could be drawn to our Savior?
Jesus says to the disciples that it is not just giving up our things to follow him (the disciples had already done that). Our Lord insists that we give up our very souls—for our sake! The Greek term for soul is Psuche [NT:5590] and it means our eternal being and our last breath. It meant vitality—the very essence of everything living, even the plants and animals had a soul.
To the Hebrew, the soul [OT:5315 nephesh] was also the very essence of the living being but also the root of a person’s passion and desires. That is what Jesus says we must offer to him if we are to find the fullness of meaing; our very passions and desires. From the root of self comes all worship and all selfishness. Christ is inviting us to liberate ourselves from ourselves so that we might be completely free to love selflessly. It is to this freedom of humble service that Jesus calls us; the freedom that only occurs when we no longer live to take but to give; we live forgiving.
That is Jesus’ profit/loss sheet. Give up self; gain eternity.
 “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILLTHEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.
 “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
“According to his deeds...”
Some theologians draw a line between works and faith; Jesus did not. In fact, to him the worst hypocrite was the one whose works did not correspond to his/her words. Jesus clarifies that in this statement: First; “The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels.”
The term glory [NT1391 doxa] not only means the majesty of God; but it also means the approval or authority of God—even the “opinion” (like a legal ruling) of God. Jesus is coming in God’s authority to make a legal ruling upon humankind.
Secondly, we will be “repaid [591 apodidomi]” based upon our “deeds [NT:4234 praxis].”
Repaid means we shall receive payment based upon work performed. If our life has been one of selfish taking—then our selfishness shall consume us. If our life has been measured by radical hospitality—then God’s glory (majesty, approval and authority) will liberate us.
Glory is repaid for selfless deeds. Selfless deeds that flow from a heart of compassion. Jesus offers no confusing theology to debate here about faith verses works. If we have faith, it will be revealed by our deeds. If we love God; our works will reveal it.
“Some of those who are standing here...”
We know that Jesus had many more than 12 disciples. He was followed by both men and woman from multiple walks of life. At one time he sent out just the 12 apostle’s representing each tribe of Israel. At another, he sends 72 (one for every nation in the Septuagint—Jew and Gentile alike). Some of those stayed with Jesus throughout his journey to Jerusalem, some endured his torture and execution, some witnessed his resurrection from the dead, and some were present at his ascension into glory.
The group may have been winnowed as each step of the path became increasingly more difficult to endure; but those who endured, witnessed firsthand “the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
Will we endure?
Through the difficult refinement of our expectations to the true nature of the Messiah? The disciples had to lose their expectations of a dominating king and embrace the role of suffering servant.
Through constant battles, attacks, and even retreats as Jesus shaped his disciples, often taking them to foreign lands to teach them a global gospel—not just a nationalistic ideology and also simply to flee the religious rulers.
Through the tortuous times of desperation and death when Jesus was left isolated and completely alone except for his assailants. Will we endure even if the whole world seems against us?
Through the dark days of separation when Jesus was lost to earth and separated from the Father (hell)? Will we endure the darkness of abandonment when all seems utterly lost?
If so, if our deeds show our love was consistent despite the inconsistency of the world about us, then we too will be “counted among those who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
Imagine the face of Stephen when it lit up with God’s glory as he was being stoned. I have seen that face upon those dying. Men and women who—prior to departing—witnessed the light of their heavenly Savior. Death did not take them; Jesus did. Let us prepare to be among those saints who never taste the sting of death.
Let us forego the empty promises of this life and it’s version of the messiah: a broker of comfort and pleasure. The real Messiah awaits us on the other side of Jerusalem if we can get beyond the “rock (Petra).” We have to get beyond the part of our lives that doesn’t want to pick up a cross of self-denial with Jesus. “Lead on, Lord. We are weak but we will follow.”
About the Author
Jerry Goebel is a community organizer who started ONEFamily Outreach in response to gang violence and youth alienation in a rural community in Southeastern Washington. Since that time, Jerry has worked with communities around the globe to break the systemic hold of poverty by enhancing the strengths of the poor.
A primary philosophy of ONEFamily Outreach is to teach; “poverty is a lack of healthy relationships.” And, a primary focus of ONEFamily Outreach has been to break down the barriers of poverty through creating “cultures of intentional courtesy.”
As well as having developed ongoing mentoring outreaches in his own community, Jerry travels extensively to work with church leaders, community governments, and educators.
Jerry has received five popular music awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, a Best Educational Video Award from the National Catholic Education Association, and a lifetime achievement award from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry for living Gospel Values.
To contact or book Jerry for a presentation in your area write or call:
The New Testament Greek Lexicon based on Thayer’s and
Smith’s Bible Dictionary plus others; this is keyed to the large Kittel and the
“Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.” These files are public domain.
The Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon is Brown, Driver,
Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon; this is keyed to the “Theological Word Book of the Old
Testament.” These files are considered public domain.